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Interdisciplinary Barthes$
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Diana Knight

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266670

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266670.001.0001

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Barthes and Religion

Barthes and Religion

(p.121) 8 Barthes and Religion
Interdisciplinary Barthes

Michael Moriarty

British Academy

Recent publications have enabled a much fuller understanding of Barthes’s religious (Protestant) background. The work published in his lifetime shows a negative attitude to religion, to Christianity in particular, fairly typical of French left-wingers of the period; but certain religious preoccupations continue to inflect his thought. In the lectures published as Comment vivre ensemble he discusses religious communities of various kinds. The notion of the Neutral is asserted as a value against the arrogant and intolerant certitude of faith. He shows a strong interest in Eastern mysticism, as distinct from Christian varieties of mystical experience. Yet the experience of bereavement sends him back to reading Pascal and to passages of Proust with a marked religious resonance. Thinking about his mother’s relationship to religion leads him to think again about what Christianity could mean and to ponder the possibility of a faith without violence. The chapter concludes by asking whether, along the lines of Barthes’s distinction between politics (an object of suspicion) and the political (a value to be affirmed), it is possible to make a similar distinction between religion and the religious.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, religion, Protestantism, community, mysticism, the ‘Neutral’, Pascal, Proust, faith

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